Yesterday morning Zynga announced its $1.8 billion acquisition of Peak Games. This is a story important for us in multiple ways.
Sidar, a passionate entrepreneur, was one of the first tech founders I had met upon my return home to Istanbul in 2005, as I was looking to understand the landscape. When he decided to launch Peak in 2010, my partner Evren Ucok (with his wife, Demet Mutlu, the founder of another billion-dollar Turkish success story, Trendyol) was the first investor on board and took the lead in helping the company with further financing rounds. In 2011, we met Roland Manger, one of Earlybird’s founders, and Earlybird led the company’s $5m round. In the process we got to discuss the opportunity we saw in our region with Roland and the seeds of our first fund were sown. It’s the genesis of the Earlybird Digital East Fund.
Meanwhile, Turkey lost its luster in the eyes of global VC firms and Turkish startups started struggling to get the attention of global players. Capital is a critical ingredient in a startup’s journey. When capital gets scarce, locally managed and deployed VC became more important.
Fast forward nine years, the Earlybird Digital East Fund has invested nearly $65m in Turkish companies, and $120m including the broader Emerging Europe region. In our capital-starved corner of the world, we are making a difference in the destinies of brilliant entrepreneurs who are beating the odds every day to create value for their customers, team members, and investors.
What could change this scarcity is big outcomes, reminding everyone of the potential of the brilliant tech talent, unusual creativity, and hunger for success that you can find in emerging European countries like Turkey. We are grateful to the teams at companies like Peak Games, creating sustainable companies that will continue their contribution to the local ecosystems – in this case, growing Zynga’s presence in Istanbul with a world-class team, investing in talent development and reminding aspiring entrepreneurs that it can be done.
Congratulations and thanks to all who have contributed, and especially, Sidar! Elinize sağlık!
PS. Regarding the photo above, even though it’s an old one, I think it’s the one that best captures the spirit at Peak.